Challenge: Starting Aircraft reliably in Icy Conditions

Take a look at the START PAC website and you’ll see an extensive range of ground power units, battery packs and accessories, each one aimed at making the lives of those in aviation and on the railroad far easier.  Their starting power supplies for aircraft, locomotives and heavy machinery are second to none.  That said, however good a website may be, nothing beats seeing those products in action, doing what they were meant to do and doing it well, often in extreme, uncompromising environments.  Read on to learn about our friends in Alaska and their experiences with START PAC GPUs.

Who is Talkeetna Air Taxi?

Talkeetna Air Taxi is no ordinary air service.  Known throughout Alaska as ‘The Glacier Landing Company” it gives visitors the opportunity to access some of the most spectacular scenery in the USA.  TAT’s ‘flightseeing’ tours mean that you can witness the remote magnificence of Denali National Park – many parts unreachable by foot or by road – and experience its incredible landscape of glaciers, peaks, icefalls and meltwater pools for yourself.

A diverse, yet close-knit bunch, the team at Talkeetna Air Tax has an immense amount of flying experience gained not only from adventures around the world, but also years of living in and loving Alaska.  And what’s the one thing each and every one of its employees has in common?  The safety and comfort of its passengers and the quality of their experiences.

The Talkeetna Air Taxi Fleet

Awarded a concession by the National Park Service enabling them to land on the glaciers of Denali National Park, Talkeetna Air Taxi can touch down in a multitude of locations within the Alaska Range. TAT admits, however, that while bush planes are an essential part of Alaskan life, there are some places that fixed-wing aircraft can’t go and in these situations, a helicopter proves indispensable.  As a result, their fleet includes the R44 Helicopter as well as the Canadian de Havilland DHC-3 and DHC-2 and the Cessna 185 ski planes.

Managing Aircraft Ground Power in a Challenging Environment

TAT’s pilots fly in one of the most extreme environments on the planet and the tours they offer are continually rated as number one in Alaska.  There’s a reason for this:  Professional and highly experienced, these pilots conduct more glacier landings than any other company in the world.  Not only are they Alaska’s greatest champions, they’re also adept at assessing weather, lighting and snow conditions in order to determine the best and safest landing sites.

Temperatures in the Alaskan range can reach as low as minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60 if you’re dealing with Celsius), with the wind chill taking the mercury down to minus 118F (minus 83C).  If you’re out in that weather, it would only take seconds for you to become a human popsicle.  Usually, the temperature during the winter months remains between 15.9F (8.9C) and -0.4F (-18C).  And naturally, the snowfall is significant.  Generally speaking, the summer months (June through August) are the mildest, but you’d still be advised to pack your coat.

Starting an Aircraft Reliably in Sub Zero Conditions

In this extreme environment, the last thing you want is an engine battery that is too weak or has been cold soaked and no way of getting off that glacier.  It’s always annoying and frustrating when your engine won’t start, but in this harsh scenery, such a delay could be life threatening.

The mountain range – majestic as it is – has to be treated with reverence and respect.  Awe-inspiring beauty in nature is only the product of wild temperament and as anyone with mountain experience knows, conditions can change immeasurably and dramatically from one instant to the next.

So how do you ensure that if your engine battery runs flat, you always have the means of getting that engine started, quickly and with minimal fuss and downtime?  How – in freezing temperatures – do you guarantee you can start your engine and get off the ground?   The answer to both these questions is simple: You use a ground power unit (GPU).

The Solution

Chris Campbell is the Director of Maintenance at Talkeetna Air Taxi and has worked as a mechanic for multiple aviation companies.  A colleague at a company in South Eastern Alaska recommended START PAC to Chris; the colleague felt that TAT could benefit hugely from having START PAC ground power units.  After doing his own due diligence, owner Paul Roderick, followed Chris’ lead, purchasing four START PAC GPUs.  He says, “The price is competitive for the high quality of the product.  We just really like them!”

The Ground Power Units that TAT uses are the START PAC model Li2800QC and the 3328 Special, both designed for engine starting.  The Li2800QC has a lithium-ion battery and is incredibly lightweight and portable, ideal to preserve payload when you’re out in the field.  The 3328 Special will start any piston or turbine engine with up to 500 horsepower and has separate removable batteries that can be changed in less than one minute.  Both units will allow you to extend turbine life by providing the aircraft with cooler, faster starts, putting far less stress on the aircraft’s engine.  Both units also have an environmentally responsible low VOC powder coating to protect the cases from wear and tear.  However, it’s the peace of mind these GPUs give to Talkeetna Air Taxi which is truly invaluable.  The GPUs will prevent any downtime, anywhere, even in the Arctic.  To use Paul’s own words: “In our environment, we cannot risk our aircraft not working at our remote landing strips; we could be stuck for hours in sub zero, arctic temperatures.”


Easy to use and highly portable therefore, but – most importantly – reliable, we believe that START PAC ground power units and battery banks deserve a place at every airfield, not only across Alaska but in New Mexico as well.   If you’re interested in seeing how we could help you with your GPU and battery pack needs give us a call and speak to one of our specialists directly.

We are not just a company trying to sell you a GPU.  We’re a company founded by a pilot whose passion for flying and exploring the natural environment spurred him on to create an extensive product line with more than 65 various models which we believe are invaluable to all pilots and aircraft operators today.  Sure, it’s a savvy business decision to own one of our GPUs, but more than that, it’s about looking out for the future safety of your passengers and your crew.

Alexander Graham Bell said that, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”  So, be prepared.  Be proactive and let START PAC help you soar to great heights.  You might not be ready to attempt a glacier landing just yet, but you’ll certainly never be stuck on the ground.